Omamori: Japanese Talismans

Various omamori.
An omamori is an amulet or talisman used for protection or luck. The word literally means “to guide or protect." These amulets are usually kept in one’s purse, pocket, wallet, or on a wall. (Image: Yoanita Dwi Cahyo via Dreamstime)

If you’ve ever been to Japan, you’ll find certain places that sell omamori, often near religious or traditional sites. Booths around these shrines or Japanese buildings sell these magical-looking talismans, often in the form of keychains, necklaces, or other types of trinkets, with the common one being held by a string.

Buying a random omamori just for how it looks is fine for some people, but it defeats the primary purpose of these traditional trinkets. Choosing the suitable amulet that perfectly matches who you are, what you want, and what benefits you the most is better.

What is an omamori?

An omamori is an amulet or talisman used for protection or luck. The word literally means “to guide or protect.” These amulets are usually kept in one’s purse, pocket, wallet, or on a wall.

These talismans are often purchased near holidays or in seasons near testing for students and are popular under two religions or beliefs, Shintoism and Buddhism. The concept is that the priests place the power and strength of the gods into a small blessing to help keep people safe.

When they were first created, their primary purpose was to prevent evil spirits from causing any harm and protect those carrying them from bad experiences. However, the omamori has grown over time and developed into hundreds of different types of amulets.

There isn’t much difference between omamori from Shinto shrines or Buddhist shrines. Some similarities include covering them in a silk cloth while holding a stamp with the site’s name.

An omamori is attached to a delicate thread, and a certain etiquette is followed when one purchases one.

The omamori has grown over time and developed into hundreds of different types of amulets. (Image: Chon Kit Leong via Dreamstime)

Omamori etiquette

The first rule is never to open it before a blessing is given; the owner should next say “sayonara” to the luck and blessing they bought along with the omamori.

Each omamori has its expiration date regarding the luck or protection it carries around. Often, the priests and miko, or shrine maidens, will give a definitive timeline on how long the blessing will last.

The disposal of the omamori is also essential as it can be returned to where it was bought. This way, the talismans can be disposed of properly into a sacred fire with others as you can choose your next amulet.

Choosing an omamori

While there can be hundreds of different omamori to choose from, there are a few standard ones you’ll most likely see. When selecting your first one, unless you fully understand what you want to get, it might be better to choose one of the standard options if you know them better.

The most popular omamori

Kachimamori: Talisman of success

The kachimamori is the talisman of “success,” which is supposed to channel energy into a singular goal granting luck, protection, strength, and support from the gods. This amulet is mainly for people looking to succeed in life or certain specific things. To find these amulets, look for one with an arrow symbol.

Yakuyoke: Amulet to ward away evil

It’s often believed that if bad things keep happening, this could be a sign that evil surrounds you. One way to avoid this evil is to have an amulet to ward away evil, which protects you against the evil that potentially prevents your success. You can ask for the yakuyoke amulet when buying from an omamori booth.

Shoubaihanjou: The money talisman

This omamori is specifically designed to bless the carrier financially. These types of talismans can often be found in the briefcases of salarymen. Some shrines have specific talismans for personal finance, savings, or business deals. Finding this talisman is easy since it’s often found in the shape of a moneybag in yellow.

Gakugyou-Jouju: Education and learning talisman

This type of talisman is designed for education and schooling and is often bought by students. These amulets can be seen attached to bags or as keychains. Ask for the gakugyou-jouju talisman if you want to use it to assist with your education.

Koutsuanzen: Safety amulet

This talisman is designed for transportation, protecting holders from potential harm when walking, riding, or driving. These types of omamori are often found in taxis or cars. The koutsuanzen omamori can be customized for specific transportation, like one for trains with particular routes or buses with an omamori with their exact bus number.

A young Shinto priest apprentice selling omamori at Atsuta shrine in Nagoya, Japan. (Image: Thanakrit Sathavornmanee via Dreamstime)

Enmusubi: Love talisman

Many types of love talismans exist, so specifying your needs is essential. There’s one for singles, couples, married, childbirth, and family. It’s critical to get the right enmusubi talisman, depending on the holder’s situation.

Kaiun: The lucky charm

The luck-boosting talisman is excellent for those who want to be luckier. It can be for a specific purpose or to become generally more lucky in all aspects of life. These talismans are also excellent for those who aren’t sure which kinds of talismans best apply to their situation.

Shiawase: Happiness amulet

This type of omamori is designed to attract happiness into the wearer’s life. Instead of specifics, this talisman is about happiness in general. This is another good choice if you aren’t sure what type to buy for yourself.

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  • Mike West

    Mike West is a tech/blockchain enthusiast that keeps an eye wide open to the world. He doesn't cower behind a desk but rides into the sunset in search of a way to better understand the world. Through his written works, he hopes to provide a deep dive into the beauty and intricacies of humanity emerging with a fascinating story to tell.